Black & Orange

by vonHummer

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about

I've wanted to do a Halloween album since about Summer 2008. The timing was never right. It still isn't, but I stopped caring about the timing.

I did a swell Halloween song back in 2002, "Trick or Mistreatment," available for free download at

www.vonhummer.com/download/TrickOrMistreatment.mp3

That song has its own sexual subtext, but it really is Halloween-centric. The songs on "Black & Orange," however, are only masquerading as Halloween songs, wearing "ghost," "witch," "Mummy" costumes, while they're actually about other things. Which is appropriate to the spirit of the holiday, if not the letter.

This album (the first full once since 2009's "Ever So Transient") is probably the quickest one I've ever produced from start-to-finish. "Indiscreet Where You Live" (2006) took a week or so to record and mix, but that one was done live in the studio, all in one take. "Black & Orange" had one session for the scratch loop/bass, one session for the drums, and one for the vocals. That's three each! WAY more complex. For me, anyhow.

As a songwriter, (and a Gemini, perhaps) I tend to be my own Bernie/Elton team, writing out the lyrics first and then later looking at them with a bass in hand to write the music. Over the last few years, I'd noted several Halloween-appropriate lyrics lying around kept a meticulous list for the Fall when I was ready to record them. I kept this meticulous list on a post-it.

Upon determining that this Fall was THE Fall for a Halloween album, I took Step 1: find that fucking post-it. Which, miraculously, I did. Then step 2: find the lyrics listed on the post-it.

My procedure for lyric-scribbling involves a little black planner I carry around in the vest pocket of my suit jackets, which I refer to as "My Black Brain." (The vinyl cover is black.) I get a new one every year and file the old one meticulously. Somewhere. In some drawer usually.

I had to dig up Black Brains clear back to 2006 to find the lyrics I had in mind. Once they were all assembled, I commenced writing music for them starting in mid-September of 2010. I wrote the music using my new hybrid guitar-bass, a pretty orange Mosrite copy by Eastwood guitars which I had frankensteined to my style (a bass string, two guitar strings) just a month or so previous.

I intended to use this guitar to record the album, but first I had to take it to a lutheran (the guys who make guitars). My favorite lutheran of late is the guy—whose name I STILL haven't bothered to learn—at Centaur Guitars in Portland. Usually I just walk in and he'll do the work right there and then, but for a couple of weeks in a row he'd been really busy and I had to leave off the guitar to be done.

Waiting to have my new guitar done ate away horribly at my lead time on the project. Needlessly, too, for when I got the new guitar back I sat down to record and realized that I'd have to use my standard Danelectro Longhorn bass instead.

"Curse of the Mummy" the obvious lead for the album was done with the Dan and I didn't want that track to be the odd man out, soundwise, as I figured the Eastwood would sound very different.

On September 27th, I started recording "Killer Caribbean Queen." My goal was to have the album done by October 1st. As always, it was important to leave myself time enough to fail. Which I did. But, I did manage to release the album by October 6th, so whatever. Hats off to me.

I was bedeviled the entire time by technical problems, born of my decision to use the Danelectro instead of the Eastwood. The high-string-only pickup on the Dan was on the fritz. I thought I'd fixed it a month before, but now the pickup, a specialty pickup installed by bass Jedi Master Paul Delano, was going all scratchy on me. I didn't dare take the time to take it back to Centaur, so instead I jammed a skinny screw driver in between the pickup and the edge of the hole cut for the pickup. Somehow this would stop the scratching. Unless in playing I knocked the screwdriver.

Further, in my glorious, high-end home studio, there's a massively annoying field of buzz. Like tv antennae of old—which would only get a clear picture in a precise position, I have to position myself with guitar facing one particular way to get a buzz-free recording.

As a final bonus, the weather of late September took a balmy turn and the temperature in my studio would rocket up to that of a toaster oven as soon as I turned off the AC. Which I have to do when recording, because I mic the strings of my bass to give the sonic illusion of an acoustic guitar strumming along.

So if you want a picture of me recording this album, there it is: sweating bullets, frozen like a scarecrow in the non-buzz position, trying desperately not to knock the screwdriver sticking out of my middle pickup.

By the time I'd gotten to the last number (I recorded the songs in the order they appear on the album), the screwdriver technique was no longer working and I had no choice but to use the Eastwood on "Papa Did the Monster Mash." Which sounds different than the other songs, but not terribly so. Anyhow, credit is always given if the last song is nothing like the rest of the album. Like Starkist Tuna, it shows good taste.

But for all that, this is so far my favorite vonHummer album. What I'm after in my art is to surprise myself at the outcome. I go in with some idea of what the project may turn out like, and if it's not at all like I thought it would be, that's a delight to me. "Black & Orange" was a surprise the whole way.

I recorded this one so quickly and the songs were so new to me, I'd pretty much forget what they sounded like until I went back to record the next part. (I work in rounds. First I do the bass/loop tracks on every song. Then I sweep through and do the drum tracks on every song. Then lastly the vocals.) That's a real thrill to have a song of my own be so new to me I don't recognize it. But then, my ultimate art fantasy is to have amnesia for a day and be able to listen to my work, and see if I'd be a fan of mine if I wasn't me. Does that make sense to anybody? No? Skip it.

This album is the first one to not have some kind of photo of me on the front. I originally wanted to get a real pumpkin and carve it, and attach lobsters to it and put candles in, but the stores weren't carrying actual pumpkins yet. They did have plastic ones with interior light bulbs. I settled.

The morning before I released the album, I set up for the cover picture, making the jack-o-lobster. I made a DVD of a fireplace and played it on the giant flatscreen in my living room, setting up the jack-o-lobster in front.

The pumpkin's interior bulb washed out the features, so I got a black sharpie and outlined the seams of the pumpkin and the mouth and nose holes. As a result, the jack-o-lobster looks even phonier. Which surprised me. Which I liked. I took the photos with my iPhone and done.

In closing, I hope you enjoy this album for grown-ups who still keep the true meaning of Halloween in their hearts. I'm still not quite sure what that true meaning is, but it may be akin whatever the true meaning of Mardi Gras in New Orleans is: a time and place to be anything for a night? A celebration that lets out the mischief we hold in all year? An occasion to make friends openly for one night only with our sworn enemy the rest of the year: death?

-vonHummer

credits

released October 6, 2010

Produced and mixed by Clark Kent for Therisno Records at Therisno Studios. All stuff played and sung by vonHummer. All songs by vonHummer. Cover art by vonHummer, excepting the back cover photo by Cris De La Fuente.

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vonHummer Portland, Oregon

vonHummer is a Portland music/cable access legend whose career spanned from Fall of 2001 to Fall of 2011, during which he recorded a hundred or so songs for use in his absurdist show (and feature film) and played only a handful of concerts. Currently retired, his work shines on for the ages. Or will he someday return...? ... more

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Track Name: Curse of the Mummy
"Curse of the Mummy" [vonHummer]

Listen, Ladies, this tale is true/Circle round me as the fire goes dim/ Maybe you know someone like her, like him/Ladies, don’t let this shit happen to you/A sweet young thing, an ancient king/bricked in by gold in a suburban tomb:/The living dead: redecorating rooms/

She saw the money/He saw the beauty/She figured, “Rich or poor, they’re all the same…”/Curse of the Mummy/Poor little dummy/She took his hand and now she can’t get away…/

Listen, ladies, this sweet young thing/Lied and said she liked him “wrapped so tight/Always embalmed, he lays off me at night,”/Ladies, when love becomes cha-ching, cha-ching/Ancient gets old, and chains of gold/Are no less chains/She found all too soon/The living dead: decorating and redecorating rooms/

She saw the money/He saw the beauty/She figured, “Rich or poor, they’re all the same…”/Curse of the Mummy/Poor little dummy/She took his hand and now she can’t get away…/

He gave her his heart, to be sure/All dried up in a canopic jar/Similarly, she lost all her guts/Love for money can make you nuts/

Look at her, ladies, in her drop-top Mercedes/She might as well be driving a Hearse/She smiles so sweetly you can’t see it at first/She took the mummy’s hand, she’s cursed, she’s cursed/

Ooh, ooh! She got married…and buried alive…
Track Name: Killer Caribbean Queen
"Killer Caribbean Queen" [vonHummer]

(No more/Love on the run/Guaranteed…)

She keeps dashing by me/with Moet et Chardon/
In painted-on jeans/“Let them eat cake,” she said/
And all heads turned/cos she was the dream…/
Just like Marie Antoinette/I knew her number and her name/I was the tiger cigarette/she wanted to tame/anytime…/

I lose my cool/to avoid complications/when she steps in the room/She never kept the same address/like a baroness/and I get her perfume…/
Naturally from Paris/electric eyes careless from China/
And passion burns you like never down/to Geisha Minor/incidentally…/

She’s a killer Caribbean queen/now we’re sharin’ the same gunpowder gelatine/and two hearts that beat dynamite with a laser beam…/

I was in search/of a built-in remedy/running my game/Kruschev and Kennedy/ Was the furthest thing from my mind/just a good time pussycat you can’t decline/anytime?

She’s a killer Caribbean queen/now we’re sharin’ the same gunpowder gelatine/and two hearts that beat dynamite with a laser beam…/

(No more/Love on the run/Guaranteed…What a drag…)
Track Name: Ghost of an Action
"Ghost of an Action" [vonHummer]
Now that we/all agree/something drastic must be done/What ghost of an action/will we now be taking, son?/

Now that we all agree/that the truth needs saying loud/What ghost of a message/will we stand outside and shout?

How many inanimate objects/will be deputized?/How many studies of pie in the sky/will be authorized?/How many sitting ducks,/how many decoys/will we/deploy point-blank/for the pop guns of the good old boys?/

Now that we/all agree/lives are being jeopardized/What sublime pantomime/of a plan will we devise?/

How many inanimate objects/will be deputized?/How many studies of pie in the sky/will be authorized?/How many sitting ducks,/how many decoys/will we/deploy point-blank/for the pop guns of the good old boys?/

What ghost of an action are we ready to take?/What ghost of a difference are we willing to make?
Track Name: The Invisible Ma'am
"The Invisible Ma'am" [vonHummer]

You were the center of every room/ that you giggled /and wiggled/ and jiggled into,/ only natural to assume/ you’d always have it all,/ beck and call, /world by the balls…/

But 40 birthdays along or so,/ your mistake in that regard became apparent, /when your sexiness suddenly went /transparent/

Invisible Ma’am, /given no damn,/how are ya? Who are ya?Where are ya?, Invisible Ma’am,/They don’t kiss your hand/how are ya? Who are ya? Where are ya?/

See at the center of every room/young girls giggle/and wiggle/and jiggle like you/used to do when you were in bloom/they, too, can’t see you there,/unaware/of your bitter stare…/

40 or so birthdays have gone/—your milk and honey land has turned-mirage—/suddenly skin-deep beauty became/ camouflage/

Invisible Ma’am, /given no damn,/how are ya? Who are ya?Where are ya?, Invisible Ma’am,/They don’t kiss your hand/how are ya? Who are ya? Where are ya?/

Can you somehow seek substance? Make no deference? Refrain from vain nonsense? If you hope someday/ someone may see your way/hear what you say/It’s your only chance/back to visibility’s scam,/Invisible Ma’am…

Invisible Ma’am, /given no damn,/how are ya? Who are ya?Where are ya?, Invisible Ma’am,/They don’t kiss your hand/how are ya? Who are ya? Where are ya?

Invisible Ma’am,/wow them somehow now/if you can…/
Track Name: Sugar Frosted Fear
"Sugar Frosted Fear" [vonHummer]

Morning’s here/Join me in a bowl of Sugar Frosted Fear?
The End is near/Shrug over a bowl of Sugar Frosted Fear/

Gives you energy/to face your divorce/Wakes your heart right up/after intercourse/If you liked the moral fiber/ of the Trojan Horse/You’re gonna love these…/It’s got 8 essential/ vital mental ironies/look for the bright black box/Ooh! They embossed it!/Share it with yer family and friends/Sugar Frosted Fear…/

Spectator’s cheer/It’s the fast break of champions:/Sugar Frosted Fear/ Everyone’s queer/breaking out the closet for Sugar Frosted Fear…/

Sweet golden crunch of civil unrest/Self-preservatives put cares on your chest/If you’re happy/and you know you’re depressed/Clap your hands for these…/Pour the pitcher of slow-mo skim milk/(the milk of human kindness)/Oops! Guess we lost it!/Don’t talk while you eat and run on/Sugar Frosted Fear…
Track Name: Some Kind of Psycho
"Some Kind of Psycho" [vonHummer]

You smile and say hello/Tell me I’m someone you’d like to get to know/In your eyes I see a sparkling glow/and so…

You must be some kind of psycho/Normal people aren’t the kind I ever meet/The sane stay discreet/Goodly people don’t want to know/The friendly are freaks/and if you speak to me/Uh-oh/Uh-oh/You must be some kind of psycho…

Bust into tears as I propose/Gasp yes and tell me you’re thrilled to be my betrothed/Swear our love will grow and grow…

You must be some kind of psycho/Normal people aren’t the kind I ever meet/The sane stay discreet/Goodly people don’t want to know/The friendly are freaks/and if you speak to me/Uh-oh/Uh-oh/You must be some kind of psycho…

Some small gaffe on my part/or you’ll get up on the wrong side of the bed/suddenly you grow fangs and your eyes glow red/as your head revolves/as once again/I’ve become involved...

With some kind of psycho/Normal people aren’t the kind I ever meet/The sane stay discreet/Goodly people don’t want to know/The friendly are freaks/and if you speak to me/Uh-oh/Uh-oh/You must be some kind of psycho…

I must be salt/cos the nuts are all around me/I must be Canada/cos I’m home to the loons/and if you take my hand/ and kiss me behind the dunes/and ask me politely to be your beau/I’ll know...

You must be some kind of psycho/Normal people aren’t the kind I ever meet/The sane stay discreet/Goodly people don’t want to know/The friendly are freaks/and if you speak to me/Uh-oh/Uh-oh/You must be some kind of psycho…
Track Name: East River Beast
"East River Beast" [vonHummer]

Meaningless rags hang slack/on rusty poles/ by the concrete den/ strewn with the bones of spineless men/ hung to dry, in the hot air/ the empty wind/closeted skeletons rattle again/

It’s a monster to say the least/all fat/no lean upon which to feast/ rising up to have a piss/yawn, and go back to sleep/East River Beast…/East River Beast/

Mountains of plundered gold/in tribute, poured/down the massive throat/churned and turned to a liquid shit moat/Trembling gentlemen lay their coats/that ladies may cross and vote/

For its feeding to be increased/and all slender leashes released/ that the body exercise/worldwide, with reason decreased/East River Beast…East River Beast…East River Beast…East River Beast…/

East River Beast/how precious you were as a pup/Had we known then/the monstrosity you would become/we would have tied you up in a sack/and tossed you back/into the East River/East River Beast…

It’s a monster to say the least/all fat/no lean upon which to feast/ rising up to have a piss/yawn, and go back to sleep/East River Beast…/East River Beast/
Track Name: Witchfinder General
"Witchfinder General" [vonHummer]

Witchfinder General/Sifts we peasantry/for ye Royalty/ Witchfinder General/Sees the sorcery in you and me/

it’s nothing personal/our inferiority/ Satan, what say you: get thee well behind her/WitchfinderGeneral…

Witchfinder General/schooled somehow in things unearthly/Witchfinder General/moved to mirth by we unworthy/

Innocence, hers to say/(not that nobles have no sway)/Damnéd be thy name in her binder/Witchfinder General/

Self appointed/Self annointed/she takes the cake/throws you in her lake/when she’s hot/When she’s not/she’ll let you off/with a stern reminder/Witchfinder General, is that all you’ve got?/

Witchfinder General/young enough to be omniscient/Witchfinder General/old enough to be deficient/

Save us from them above/Hearts bent to gents below/Mindlessly so may we wear her blinders/Witchfinder General…
Track Name: Well of Secrets
"Well of Secrets" [vonHummer]

Crawl on your hands and knees/barely wide enough for one/spiders scuttle along/to watch the fun/it’s claustrophobic as hell/the way to the Well/of Secrets…/

Damn near impossible for anyone to find/you’ve got yours and I’ve got mine/ we alone can enter/nothing can escape/we hope/but with enough rope/we lower ourselves/to the Well of Secrets…/

Skeletons stand guard, hard to see til eyes adjust, everything well maintained fairly free of dust, wonders, blunders to tell no one in the Well of Secrets…

Damn near capacity but still some room/partly preserve and partly tomb/too much more and the upstairs floor/or the ground/surrounding will warp/and suspiciously swell/pregnant/with our Well/of Secrets…/

Wish we could tear up the lease/or sell it to someone/resolve once and for all/to stay in sun/but deals with angels/just before they fell/bind us to the Well/of Secrets…
Track Name: Papa Did the Monster Mash
"Papa Did the Monster Mash" [vonHummer]

I was working in the lab/On the third of September/ When my eyes beheld an eerie sight/I’ll always remember/

The day my daddy died/and from his slab began to rise/
I never heard nothin’ but bad things about him/and suddenly to my surprise…

Papa papa papa did the Monster Mash/Wherever he hung his hat was a graveyard smash/Papa papa did the Monster Mash/and when he died in a flash/all he left us was the Monster Mash…/

Hey mama was it true/Daddy never worked a day/In his laboratory in the Castle East/And Mama, some bad talk goin’ round bout Papa and the vampire’s feast/

Folks say Papa never was much on baying hounds/Diggin’ the sounds of ghouls from their humble abodes/Spent all of his time chasin’ women to get a jolt from their electrodes…

Papa papa papa did the Monster Mash/Wherever he hung his hat was a graveyard smash/Papa papa did the Monster Mash/and when he died in a flash/all he left us was the Monster Mash…/

The zombies were having fun/Tell me is that what
Sent Papa to an early grave?/Folks say Papa would beg, borrow and steal/to pay Wolfman, Dracula and his son/

Papa papa papa did the Monster Mash/Wherever he hung his hat was a graveyard smash/Papa papa did the Monster Mash/and when he died in a flash/all he left us was the Monster Mash…/